Poor state records leave disqualified drivers with licences in hand

States across the U.S. are being blamed for poor regulatory oversight that leaves disqualified commercial truck drivers on the road when they should be serving penalties.

The critique emerges in a recent audit by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General.

U.S. truck driver
(Photo: istock)

Federal regulations require states to disqualify CDL holders convicted of specific violations such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident, or using a vehicle to commit a felony.

But the audit identified paper-laden systems that fail to record conviction notices in a timely manner, and backdated and overturned disqualifications that shorten penalties.

In one cited case, it took Louisiana 432 days to officially disqualify a commercial driver after a ruling that called for the individual’s lifetime ban from driving commercial vehicles.

“State delays in posting driver conviction records pose an increased risk to public safety because unsafe drivers will continue to operate commercial vehicles,” the audit concludes.

States didn’t transit electronic conviction notices in a timely manner 17% of the time, the inspector general notes, referring to 2019 data. Eleven percent of 2,182 major offences were not posted in a timely manner, and 2% of 23,628 serious traffic violations were not posted to driver records at all.

“Some states offered administrative appeals to out-of-state drivers, overturned disqualifications, and backdated CDL disqualification periods. As a result, some drivers served shorter disqualification time periods than federal law requires,” the report says.

Many of the challenges involve failing to post paper records in a timely manner.

“For example, a driver was convicted of refusing to submit to an alcohol test on June 28, 2019. The state of conviction notified the state of record on July 8, 2019. The state of record did not post the conviction to the driver’s record until Sept. 2, 2020 – 422 days after the paper notification was sent,” the report says.

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) annual program reviews lack the quality control measures to verify that state CDL programs meet federal requirements, it adds.

Recommendations in the report include calls for states to better record, track and maintain paper-based convictions; modified annual review programs; and a plan to coordinate with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to mitigate risks when states shift to a new software system.

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